In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, current national vice-chairman of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) Pharm. Albert Kelong Alkali Pharm. spoke on some of the achievements of the present administration under the leadership of Pharm. (Alh) Olufemi Ismail Adebayo, as well as his aspiration to become the next national chairman. Excerpts:
Briefly tell us about yourself, especially your academic background
I am Albert Kelong Alkali, a community pharmacist and managing director, Medisal Pharmacy, Abuja. I graduated from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, in 1991, after which I went into the industry as medical representative for Roche Pharmaceuticals Nigeria Limited (before they changed to Swipha), covering the north/east zone. Since leaving Rochi in 1999, I have been in community practice. I am currently a final year student in Pharm. D conversion, and in some couple of months, I will be Pharm. Doctor Alkali Albert Kelong.
Our pharmacy, Medisal Pharmacy, Abuja, has two premises – one in the National Assembly’s Quarters and the other at Wuse Zone 6.
How do you combine running a community pharmacy in Abuja with the responsibility of being a national vice-chairman of ACPN?
It all depends on planning.It also boils down to the fact that I have had enough experience, being a former chairman of ACPN, before becoming the national vice-chairman.So, I have mastered my planning and I know the way I plan my activities, so that my personal business and the national assignment do notdisturb each other. I am the superintendent pharmacy for one of the outlets, while the other one is being superintended by another pharmacist. Although it is not an easy task as it entails a lot of sacrifices, but with God, we are doing well and this has inspired me to go a step higher – I am hoping to become the next national chairman of the ACPN by the grace of God.
Why did you choose community pharmacy practice ahead of other aspects of the practice?
Let me be sincere with you, community pharmacy practice is very interesting. I started with the industry as a young man because the industry had prestige then, and you were also well-remunerated and well-trained. As medical reps then, we could do presentation and we underwent series of trainings that were quite interesting.Meanwhile, hospital practice was the least interesting then because the environment was not conducive. But I want to tell you that community practice is an embodiment of both the hospital practice and the industrial, because you combine all. Some people come with prescriptions, while others come without any. I think it has been the most interesting as it affords you the opportunity to meet people, solvetheir problems, put smiles on their faces, while you also make money.
Why do you intend to vie for the office of national chairman of ACPN?
I know I am capable to be the national chairman after having understudied my present chairman, Pharm. Olufemi Ismail Adebayo from day one in office. I have also been in the Council as the state chairman, FCT branch, in the past.So I know some of the challenges that we are facing and I have the pedigree to be able to lead the association well and achieve greatness for the association.
I also have deep passion for this association and I’m glad that I’m a pharmacist because it has improved and equipped me with a lot of knowledge. With vision and focus, I am ready to steer the association to the next level. Also, with the calibre of chairmen we have had and the wealth of knowledge of the outgoing chairman, coupled with the direction I have set for myself, I think I will be able to, at least, match or supersede what the outgoing chairman has done because I am one of his loyal students (Laughs).
What gives you confidence that you can lead an association as complex as the ACPN?
As the national vice-chairman, I have worked closely with my chairman and whenever I advise and he feels the advice is useful, he takes it.Also, from the experience I have garnered working with him, I have developed many ideas for projects and programmes for the advancement of the profession and the association which I would love to implement when I emerge the national chairman of our association.
This administration, under the able leadership of Alh. Ismail has done its best and I am hoping to continue wherever it stops. At the end of the day, I would love to see community pharmacy practice members that are doing well, giving back to the society and providing the public with the needed therapeutic attention, as well ridding the society of fake and counterfeit medicines.
With 23 years’ post-graduation experience and having been a Fellow of the WAPCP since 2005, state chairman and member, National Executive Council (NEC) for five years, and being a national vice-chairman for three years or so, I am quite mature for the job, and I am willing to take this association to the next level by the grace of God.
Tell us some of the achievements and challenges as of the present administration in the last three years in office.
Well, under the able leadership of my national chairman, Pharm. (Alh) Olufemi Ismail Adebayo, we have been able to come up with the mission and vision statements for the association which have defined our focus and goals from inception. The association now has a new logo and, of course, the public is now better enlightened on whom a qualified and registered community pharmacist is compared to those days when quacks and charlatans almost took over the practice from the professionals.
In addition, we have done enough to improve the welfare of our members and also enhance their practice. However there is still much to be done because we cannot work in isolation. The regulatory agencies also have to do their work so that the practice can be better than it is now. I am very happy that we have a new registrar at the level of PCN and the new board of council. From the way they are going, they are charting a new course for the profession, and if things continue this way, I think pharmacy practice will be much better than what it is now.
How do you see pharmacy practice today compared to what it used to be?
It is getting a lot better and I will also like to say that my own pharmacy practice has been enhanced by the fact that I enrolled in the Pharm. D conversion programme, which, to me, is the best thing that has ever happened to pharmacy in Nigeria. I am saying this because, by the time you graduate as a Pharm. D holder, you become well-grounded. The University of Benin that is presently doing the conversion is doing well. Today, I have patients who come to my premises for immunisation, some for counselling, some with chronic ailments such as hypertension, diabetes and others; while some come specifically because they want to see and talk to the pharmacist. This can only be possible when they have confidence in you. So, in a nutshell, pharmacy practice, from my point of view, is now better practised than what it used to be.
Are you suggesting that all pharmacists who have B.Pharm. should also go for Pharm. D?
Definitely yes, that is the way forward. All pharmacists should go for Pharm. D, while those who already have B.Pharm. should go for conversion. This doesn’t mean it’s a must for everybody but all those intending to be pharmacists should go for the Pharm. D because it is a unique degree that brings one closer to the patient.
The reason some set of people are trying to take away the practice from us is because we are not close to the patients. So, if we are close to the patients as well as the molecules, other healthcare professionals will respect us as being important in healthcare delivery.
As someone who has been in the practice for a while, how would you assess pharmacy practice in the country?
Pharmacy is a profession that is highly specialised and thrives well in a properly regulated society and that is why in the US and the UK, pharmacists are in the top class of society. However, in our country today, the practice environment needs to be sanitised and that is why we have so many of our colleagues not doing too well.
However, despite the chaotic situation we find ourselves, if, as a pharmacist, you are able to define yourself and do what you are supposed to do in your practice area, you will realise that your community will appreciate what you are doing and you will be popular in their midst. So, the practice is highly rewarding for those who know what to do, in terms of pharmaceutical care and others.
As one of the stakeholders, what is your view on the happenings in the healthcare sector in the country?
The healthcare sector today, to me, leaves much to be desired. We are supposed to do better than we are doing now, but some doctors (don’t let me say all) continue to see pharmacists as rivals in the industry. I know that it’s just specialisation that separated the two because pharmacy and medicine are the same as they aim at achieving the same result, which is healthcare provision. Also, none of the healthcare providers can work in isolation, because the physician may not be able to work effectively without the pharmacists, while the same applies to others. So, as far as I am concerned, it is just ego problem, which is not good for the sector. Healthcare provision should be about patients.